The Right Take on Campus
Florida student voters: What has Bill Nelson done for you recently?
History is perhaps humanity’s greatest teacher. In the realm of political science, history is foundational to understanding our present political circumstances.
History shows us that the political party of an incumbent president always loses influence in legislatures, whether that be on the national level or the local level. For example, from 2009 to 2016, Democrats lost more than 1,000 seats at the local, state, and national level. Although former President Barack Obama enjoyed relatively high levels of popularityduring his tenure as president, history shows us that he guided the Democratic Party into a period of extraordinary loss. Although Republicans relished in gaining their congressional majority during the Obama administration, they are now fighting to keep it.
Recent events have also made this task even more difficult for Republicans. For example, just this week Speaker Paul Ryan announcedthat he would not seek re-election. Ryan’s retirement now adds an element of internal politics, with both House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise possible replacements.Divided opinions on Ryan’s successor could complicate messaging, fogging a clear course of action for congressional Republicans. Ryan’s retirement also adds another prominent name to an expanding list of prominent congressional Republican retirees, including Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and Trey Gowdy.
One of the most critical 2018 senatorial races for Republicans will take place in Florida between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott. As a member of the growing millennial voting bloc, I can say that this race will be personal for every college student across the state.
In 2017, Richard Spencer, a self-proclaimed white nationalist, visited the University of Florida, where I attend college. Spencer’s ideology is perhaps best summarized in his own words, in which he said: “Our dream is a new society, an ethnostate that would be a gathering point for all Europeans. It would be a new society based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.”
Conservatives and liberals alike stood hand in hand against Spencer’s hateful ideology on my campus. In the midst of all this, Scott declared a state of emergency, allowing the Florida National Guard to partner with local, state, and other law enforcement agencies. Scott allocated every needed resource to University of Florida during this time. All the while, I asked myself: Where was Bill Nelson?
In 2017, Florida was rocked with the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma. Scott declared a state of emergency and gave students ample time to prepare for the hurricane, allowing them to evacuate with their families. Hurricane Irma had lasting effects on millions of Floridians. Scott worked in nearly every capacity to ensure every Floridian had food, water, shelter, and power. In retrospect, an overwhelming majority of Floridians believe that Scott handled this crisis well, prioritizing governance over politics. Again, I asked myself: Where was Bill Nelson? The answer is that Nelson was fundraising for his campaign.
Examining a public servant’s record is critical to understanding his or her values. Based on Scott’s record, we can clearly see three fundamental values that are imperative for college students to consider when voting in the 2018 midterms.
1. Devotion to quality, affordable education. Scott signed into law a permanent expansion of the Florida Bright Futures scholarship. The Bright Futures Scholarship rewards students who graduate with at least a 3.0 GPA, a 26 ACT score or 1170 SAT score, and 75 community service hours. This scholarship can pay up to 100 percent of a student’s tuition cost, and may also provide them with a $300 stipend to purchase textbooks.
2. Determination to fight the opioid crisis. Studies have shown that the legalization of marijuana is an efficient way to help curb the impact of the opioid epidemic. In 2017, Scott signed into law a broader medical marijuana system. This legislation allows for patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, or epilepsy to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles, and vape “pens” to treat their pain. The legislation also provided 10 new companies with licenses to grow marijuana crops.
3. Support for the First Amendment. Historically, delineated areas of free speech on college campuses have supported an environment conducive in the suppression of free speech. For example, a member of the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at the University of Florida was assaulted by a university employee over the exchange of ideas. On other occasions, students deliberately vandalized messaging which marketed the appearance of conservative speakers. In March, Scott signed “The Excellence in Higher Education Act” into law. This law forbids the establishment of “free speech zones,” allowing every student group on a university campus to voice their concerns and opinions no matter their geographical location.
College students are empathetic. They want to see policy that helps the community, especially during times of tragedy. In February, the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School rocked not just the state of Florida, but our nation. Although some individuals have capitalized on tragedies like these to promote an agenda, politicians need to ask themselves what they can do to prevent a tragedy like this from occurring in the future. Scott put politics aside to take reasonable measures like funding school security, expanding mental health services and regulations, banning bump stocks, creating a 3-day waiting period for commercial gun sales, and raising the minimum gun purchasing age from 18 to 21. I ask myself yet again: What has Bill Nelson done?
CNN’s Chris Cillizza gave a thorough analysis to answer this question. Bill Nelson voiced general support for ideas, but used the CNN Town Hall to attack Rick Scott. Nelson chose to prioritize politics over governance.